Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Series-Premiere Recap: Godzilla Returns

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Series-Premiere Recap: Godzilla Returns

The series premiere of “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” takes viewers on a multi-timeline journey, weaving together the past and present of the Monsterverse. With Godzilla’s return to the small screen, the episode introduces intriguing characters, mysterious legacies, and the promise of uncovering the founding of Monarch.

Glimpses of Multiple Timelines:

The key to the success of most of the 30-plus Godzilla movies spanning 69 years lies in the limited screen time for the King of the Monsters. Even in classics like “Godzilla vs. the Astro-Monster,” a 60s favorite, Godzilla appears for just over five minutes. The challenge then becomes: how do you create a compelling Godzilla film without relying too heavily on the iconic monster? The answer, in theory, is straightforward: a well-crafted plot and compelling human characters. This principle is particularly crucial for television adaptations, where the budget constraints make continuous monster spectacle impractical. Apple TV+’s new series, set across various MonsterVerse eras, follows this formula, initially prioritizing human drama and intrigue over constant monster action.

“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” marks Godzilla’s return to the small screen, a realm he has ventured into before with notable instances such as the ’70s Hannah-Barbera cartoon and a more recent entertaining Netflix anime. Unlike its predecessors, Monarch has a higher stake, aiming to transform the Monsterverse into a comprehensive multimedia franchise. This effort gains significance, particularly as it unfolds amid uncertainties in other major TV franchises like Marvel and Star Wars. While Monarch won’t feature Godzilla’s rematch with Kong (reserved for the big screen next year), it promises to delve into the backstory of the Monarch organization, a pivotal human element threading through the entire Monsterverse film series.”

The premise of Monarch immediately introduces constraints on the giant monsters’ narrative. The story unfolds in two timelines: the ’50s, featuring Wyatt Russell as Army officer Lee Shaw, and 2015, with Kurt Russell portraying an older Lee Shaw who is missing in the series premiere. This setup means half of the action predates Godzilla’s publicized battles with MUTOs in San Francisco, while the other half occurs between the 2014 film and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Given this timeframe, significant monster clashes are unlikely, turning the show into a covert narrative around secret kaiju cover-ups. While this concept holds potential, it also explains why two out of three monster scenes in the episode are flashbacks to movie events.

The episode commences with a flashback featuring a surprising return by John Goodman as Bill Randa, the Monarch operative. Randa, who previously led an expedition to Kong’s home on Skull Island in 1973, appears once more. The flashback unfolds as Randa’s team faces dangers from oversized native fauna. In a tense moment with a large spider, Randa escapes to a cliff by the sea, where he tosses a bag of recordings into the ocean. Addressing his son in a recorded video, Randa apologizes for what he “took” but expresses his intention to leave a legacy, aiming to “prove it was all worth it.”

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Series-Premiere Recap: Godzilla Returns
(Pic By Apple Tv)

 

Family Secrets and Surprises:

For those familiar with “Kong: Skull Island,” Bill Randa meets an unfortunate fate (courtesy of a Skullcrawler, RIP). However, his package survives, intercepted by a fishing trawler in the Sea of Japan in 2013. It eventually reaches a hidden safe in the Tokyo office of a cheater. Fast forward to 2015, the aftermath of Godzilla’s leveling of San Francisco.

Cate, on a plane to Tokyo to settle her late father’s affairs, encounters Japan’s comprehensive anti-Godzilla safety measures, including missile defense systems, evacuation routes, and protective measures against potential Titan parasites. As Tokyo stands prepared, Cate is unprepared for the revelation awaiting her in her father’s apartment. Opening the door, she discovers he had a secret family, including a wife and a son—her half-brother, Kentaro.

The meeting between the two secret families is predictably awkward, with neither side eager (or perhaps willing) to clarify which family came first. Cate attempts to leave but is interrupted by an alarm, prompting Kentaro and his mom to guide her into a Godzilla-proof bunker. Inside, Cate experiences a panic attack, triggered by flashbacks to G-Day. A chilling revelation unfolds as we see Cate was on the Golden Gate Bridge when Godzilla marched through it.

Addressing the critique that the 2014 Godzilla film was sparing in its depiction of the iconic monster, this episode offers a treat for fans with a new scene showcasing Godzilla’s destructive power. While Godzilla halted the MUTOs and faced more formidable Titans in subsequent movies, this portrayal emphasizes that he is far from being a straightforward hero. The scene includes collateral damage, notably a bus full of schoolchildren sent plummeting to their deaths by Godzilla as Cate watches in horror.

Amidst the aftermath of the panic attack, Kentaro’s mom offers comfort to Cate. Following the drill, she insists that Cate join them for tea, recognizing the need to learn more about their father. Kentaro reluctantly agrees, acknowledging the necessity of understanding who their dad truly was. The trio heads to their father’s office, where Cate, behind a map, discovers a safe. Through a guessed passcode—a combination of both wives’ and both children’s birthdates—Cate unlocks the safe, revealing Randa’s bag containing tapes.

Kentaro brings the tapes to his ex, May, an American expat and coder. In attempting to decrypt the tapes, May’s efforts trigger an alert at Monarch HQ. Agents are dispatched to Tokyo to trace these seemingly lost files. Surprisingly, Cate recognizes the Monarch symbol, having seen Monarch agents and researchers on G-Day. Neither she nor Kentaro were aware of their family’s connection to Monarch or the Titan business until now.

Cate’s last encounter with her father was five days after G-Day when he found her in a camp and then abruptly left. A week later, Cate received news that his plane was reported lost in Alaska. As May decrypts the files, Cate and Kentaro stumble upon a familiar face—a photo of their grandmother standing in what appears to be Godzilla’s footprint.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Series-Premiere Recap: Godzilla Returns
(Pic By Apple Tv)

 

Covert Monster Cover-Ups:

Now we shift to Monarch’s other timeline, set in 1959 in Kazakhstan. Keiko, the grandmother, is a young scientist on a mission with her partner, a young Billy Randa before the events of Skull Island. They’re accompanied by Wyatt Russell’s Lee Shaw, an Army officer assigned to ensure the safety of these two researchers. This team, no stranger to dealing with Titans and MUTOs, is on their way to an old, decaying power plant that should be dangerously radioactive. However, the Geiger counter falls silent once they reach ground zero. It becomes evident that the Titans are responsible, with Lee humorously noting that they believe the “A in A-Bomb stands for appetizer.”

Flashbacks and Familiar Faces

During their research, the team uncovers a sunken chamber containing eggs of a new form of MUTO. Against Lee’s wishes, Keiko and Lee descend to collect a sample. However, in a narrative tradition, a monster egg rarely remains unhatched. Countless insectoids emerge, chasing the pair as they attempt to escape. Despite Lee and Billy’s efforts, Keiko is overwhelmed by the bugs and meets a grim fate, falling to her death in a disturbing manner, marking the conclusion of the episode.

Presumably, this won’t be the last appearance of Keiko. The Monarch premiere commences with various in medias res elements, hinting that we’ll revisit earlier timelines to witness the founding of Monarch, the Titans’ discovery, and ultimately uncover the nature of the “legacy” Randa cast into the Skull Island surf.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Series-Premiere Recap: Godzilla Returns
(Pic By Apple Tv)

 

While the monster action is minimal, it is well-executed, and there’s promise in the engaging human characters, along with the anticipation of Wyatt Russell’s role in future episodes. With the narrative involving secret families, intriguing scientists, and numerous mysteries waiting to be unraveled, the series holds potential. However, there’s a concern that, with multiple timelines and intentional narrative gaps, Monarch might risk getting lost in the complexities of its own mystery box, potentially overshadowing a straightforward, effective human and monster story.